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Wattles exits legal post at Par

Joshua Wattles, Paramount Pictures’ corporate senior VP and deputy general counsel, has left the company after 11 years, it was confirmed yesterday.

Wattles, who was based in L.A. and was in charge of the day-to-day coordination of the Eddie Murphy-Art Buchwald “Coming to America” trial, in addition to overseeing the damage phase of the trial, was also in charge of all the studio’s music operations, including Famous Music.

Par had no comment on his exit. Wattles would not comment other than to say the parting was “amicable,” but a source maintained his leaving is the direct result of Paramount Communications president Stanley Jaffe consolidating his senior-level management staff.

“There’s a cultural change going on at Paramount,” said the source. “Senior-level people such as Joshua either work in New York for Martin (Davis, chairman of Par Communications) and Stanley or they don’t work at Paramount. They don’t want people from Los Angeles reporting to them. They want their own team. They are going to run the kinds of things from New York that Joshua did. They have people there already.”

Wattles joined Par in 1981 as an attorney for the Motion Picture Group and in 1985 was promoted to corporate senior VP and deputy general counsel. Wattles was involved in most of the studio’s senior level deals, including Eddie Murphy’s first motion picture pact with the studio.

Eventually, Wattles was put in charge of the studio’s music operations. During his tenure at that post, revenues increased at Famous Music and Wattles helped the music division secure the rights to the Duke Ellington catalog, considered something of a coup. In addition, he was instrumental in putting together many of the studio’s lucrative soundtrack deals.

A source, however, said that when Jaffe appointed his brother, Ira, to run Famous Music, it created friction for Wattles.

“That was an indication that they were taking away some of his power,” said the source.

Another of Wattles’ achievements at the studio was his overseeing of the damages phase of the “Coming to America” trial, in which it was determined how much money Art Buchwald and his producing partner Alain Bernheim were to receive.

Buchwald and Bernheim were eventually awarded $ 900,000, substantially lower than the $ 6.2 million for which their attorney asked. The ruling was considered something of a victory for the studio.

Wattles said he’s not sure what he will do next, although he said he’s considering several music industry jobs, adding, “Paramount gave me an extraordinary variety of jobs. I had a great time. It was a wonderful opportunity.”

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